U.S. expats can vote even if they live here

I am writing to share some important information concerning how U.S. expats living in Costa Rica can vote in the 2012 state and federal elections.

I grew up in a political family where the idea of not voting in an election, whether it was to choose the next dog catcher or president, was not only unthinkable, it was downright sinful! And the fact that I am now a legal resident of another country has not stopped me from wanting to exercise my right to participate in the political process. Even as an expat living in Costa Rica, I still vote in U.S. elections.

Surprised? In fact, United States’ citizens residing outside the U. S. are entitled to vote in federal elections. Yet many do not, either because they are unaware of this fact or do not know how the process works. So, I thought I would share information about how to participate in Election 2012.

For U.S. citizens, age 18 years or older, residing outside the U.S., here is how it works:

1.You can vote to elect federal offices, namely president, vice-president, and members of Congress (U.S. House and Senate). Note that a few states allow voting in state and local elections, but you will need to check your state’s requirements to be sure.

2.Your “legal state of residence” for voting purposes is the U.S. state or territory where you last resided immediately before leaving the United States. This is so, even if you didn’t own property there and/or never intend to return.

3.If your state holds a federal primary election, you can vote in that as well as the general election. (As of this writing, most states have already held their 2012 primaries. Check with your local elections authority to find out whether you can still receive a ballot for that election.)

4.Starting with the 2010 election, anyone wishing to vote must submit a federal post card application (FPCA). Even if you’ve been voting since Earth was molten rock and never missed an election, it is strongly recommended that you submit a new application after Jan. 1 of each election year in order to avoid having your ballot challenged by your local elections authority.

5. Although staff at any U.S. embassy or consulate can assist with filling out your voter registration form or ballot request, these facilities do not serve as polling stations. All voting is through absentee ballot.

Once your local (U.S.) election authority receives your FPCA, they will confirm your eligibility and place you on their list to receive your blank absentee ballot. Your ballot will arrive via regular mail as well as electronically. You must then complete your ballot and return it by the receipt deadline.

Worried that your friendly Costa Rican mail carrier cannot find your casa located 50 meters just past the purple dumpster? No problem. Should you fail to receive a ballot, you will still have a chance to vote using a federal write-in absentee ballot. All the forms and instructions you need are available at www.VoteFromAbroad.org. If you have difficulty accessing either the Web site or the forms, feel free to contact me for assistance.
Sally Finney Timm
Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica

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